Enter Crow: The Best-Loved Yoga Pose
Crow Pose is on the more foundational side of yoga arm balances, but it's the first one we are all scratching to get at when we begin. Like all poses and arm balances, even when we find our space in it, there is still further to go. The journey doesn't stop there.
Once we have the foundation and ease in our bent arm Crow, it's time to learn straight arm Crow Pose aka Crane Pose, which opens the door to a whole new world of possibilities in your practice.
Turning Crow Pose (Bent Arms) Into Crane Pose (Straight Arms)
Crane Pose requires a deeper extension of the wrist, moving the shoulders past them, and a heap more core activation and hip flexion. But, interestingly, as we begin to develop ourselves in a straight arm position, it becomes more effortless than our bent arm Crow. Or maybe that's just me, and I am tripping out...
So, where do we begin? First, let's lay the foundations.
The Wrists & Hands
As you move into a deeper extension in the wrists, you need to make sure the wrists are appropriately warmed up and strong. Even though they are your base, you want the push to be coming from the shoulder, which we will talk about in a second. Placing your index finger at around 12 o'clock can help make it a bit easier on the wrists, and placing your hands as such encourages the external rotation in the shoulder that we are looking for.
The next thing we need to look at is the position of the shoulders. We want to create a big protraction over the back through the shoulder blades to makes space for our knees and thighs to draw up into the chest. This protraction also engages our serratus anterior and latissimus dorsi and other key shoulder muscles to maintain the pose with stability and ease. I like to imagine that I am pressing from my armpit, putting myself into an angry cat position and trying to squeeze my inner arms towards each other. This squeezing of the arms towards each other also helps to make use of our chest muscles.
Core & Legs
The key to Crane Pose is core compression and hip flexion. The more you can draw everything in and up towards the chest and stomach, the lighter it will be. This feeds into other areas of our yoga practice, such as floating forward in sun salutations or pressing into a handstand. Of course, you want to have your legs super engaged for this, so make sure to draw the heels up to the bum, point the toes and use your whole frontline of the body to draw the thighs into the chest. It's challenging in the beginning, but as with everything, it's just practice.
So, how do you begin to develop this?
Here are my 5 favourite exercises to help you turn your Crow Pose into Crane Pose.
5 Effective Exercises to Turn Crow Pose Into Crane
Planche-Style Plank Holds
Plank is one of the best things you can do for straight arm and scapula strength. Have the fingers slightly facing out to make it more gentle on the wrists if you need, and then work to edge the shoulder past the wrists. Make sure to really be high on the toes with the navel drawing towards the spine. I like to imagine I am trying to pull my hips towards the ribs. Hold anywhere between 30-60 seconds.
Lolasana Lifts & Holds
One of the best exercises for Crane Pose and compression work. If you want, grab some bricks for this so you can get some extra space to bring the knees in. For this, you want to have the hands just under the knees, roughly halfway down the thighs. You're then working to lift the knees and thighs as high as you can into the chest. Think of lifting your sternum towards the spine to create protraction in the shoulders. This protraction will then make space for the knees to draw up into. Work to bring both feet up off the ground but if it's too much, to begin with, work to either keep feet on the ground, making them as light as you can when you lift up or just alternate lifting one leg off the ground. Do 5 x rounds of 3-5 second holds.
One of the more challenging but fun exercises. You can have knees on the outside to begin as I do in the photos or if you're comfortable, try it with the knees on the back of the arms. From your normal Crow position, you then work to straighten the arms as much as possible and then bend back down again. Having the knees on the outside of the arms can help you squeeze the arms up and in by using the inner thighs to support them. Do anywhere between 5-10 reps.
Core Compression Leg Lifts
One of the worst but best exercises for compression. Start as you would in a seated forward fold, Paschimottanasana, have the legs really squeezing in and toes pointing away from you. Place the hands just below the knees. You can have the fingertips down with the palm lifted or if you really want to go for it, have the palm flat. Do your best to not move the upper body; think of up-dogging the chest, lift the legs as high as you can, and then lower back down. Try to move solely from the hip and core. Do anywhere between 10-20 reps.
Compression Sock Slides
For this, you'll need a pair of socks and a relatively slippery floor. My mat was slidey enough to do this on concrete, but I don't recommend it. Start in a plank position but on the top of your toes. If you need, grab a towel or something a little bit more cushiony other than just socks. Work to maintain the form of a plank in the shoulders and then draw the knees into the chest, as close and high as you can get them in, then slide plank to the starting position of the plank. Use the core to make the feet as light as possible, and again, if you need to face the fingers out, it's a bit more gentle on the wrists. This exercise can be super challenging and uncomfortable on the feet, to begin with, so give yourself some padding, and if it's not smooth sliding, it's ok. With consistency and practice, this becomes easier and really teaches you how to make the body light with the core. Do anywhere between 5-10 reps.
How To Use Props To Improve Your Crane Pose
When learning Crane Pose, it can be daunting as suddenly you're a lot higher up. If you find yourself worried about falling, you can use bricks to support you. You'll need 2 bricks or anything that resembles bricks, maybe that's booked stacked, and you'll place them in front of you. Then, as you lean forward, you gently bring your head there for support so you can focus more on bringing the feet up and finding your balance.
That's all folks. We'd love to see or hear how you got on working towards your first Crane Pose. Tag us on Instagram @soweflow, share the article with your community below, or leave a comment.
Practice With Miles